There must be something in the Guinness in Ireland that produces golf champions at an extraordinary rate.
Or is it just the luck o’ the Irish?
A country with a population of just more than six million having four golfers with six major titles to their credit in the last six years is a mathematical and athletic anomaly. But with Padraig Harrington (three majors), Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke (one each), Ireland defies golf gods’ logic.
So it would make sense for such a golf-dominant country to at least play host to a major championship one of these years, right? If things fall into place the way Wilma Erskine and others at Royal Portrush Golf Club on the north coast of Ireland are hoping, this summer’s Irish Open (June 28-July 1) will be a mere dress rehearsal for the Open Championship (known on this side of the Atlantic as the British Open) coming to Northern Ireland four or five years hence.
The Open has been held in Northern Ireland only once, 1951 at Portrush. Erskine, secretary manager at Royal Portrush, says the club has “a romantic dream of achieving our goal of playing host” to another Open, perhaps even becoming part of the Open Championship’s course rotation.
“The R and A will be looking at us carefully” when the club hosts the Irish Open this year, she said.
The Royal and Ancient (R and A), which runs the Open, uses a rota of nine courses — four in England; five in Scotland. With the recent Irish success in the majors, public pressure in the UK has been exerted to bring the Open west across the Irish Sea.
Erskine says if Royal Portrush is fortunate enough to be awarded an Open in the next few years, it will most certainly be ready. “We’ve done a complete renovation of the clubhouse, we have a new practice facility, including a short-game area, we’ve built eight new tees and we’ve lengthened the course to 7,143 yards (from 6,800),” said Erskine in a recent interview. Course irrigation has also been upgraded.
“While others were saving (during the recent recession) we were spending,” she said.
This year’s Irish Open is guaranteed to be a huge hit, with all four Irish lads with major titles committed to competing, as well as other top names, such as reigning PGA champ Keegan Bradley, an American with strong Irish roots.
Watching, and almost guaranteed to be impressed, will be members of the R and A.
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Hear about the latest Pro Bowl proposal, in which the NFL all-stars play the Cincinnati Bengals? They’d call it the Pro and Con Bowl.”
• CBS’s David Letterman, among his top 10 pieces of advice for today’s young athletes:
— “Don’t waste your money on fast cars and fast living . . . invest in tattoos.
— “Talk to friends, family and clergy about which Kardashian is right for you.”
• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Six Cubs fans are walking 1,600 miles accompanied by a goat named Wrigley to help end the club’s 104-year curse. Yeah, I would think either that or better pitching would be the answer.”
• R.J Currie of sportsdeke.com:” The U.S. town of Boring (Ore.) just signed a sister-city agreement with the British village of Dull. For good measure, they threw in the Chicago Cubs as a sister team.”
• Mike Bianchi of the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel, on Yankees closer Mariano Rivera blowing out his ACL shagging fly balls during batting practice: “If this is it for Rivera, it will be the worst ending to greatness since the final episode of ‘Seinfeld.’ “
• Cote again: “In summary, I would call the first month of the Marlins’ season a rousing success, other than the Muhammad Ali Opening Day calamity, the Fidel Castro crisis, the lack of hitting that sent the team spiraling to the NL East cellar, and the fact the new ballpark roof leaks and the outfield grass is dying.”
• R.J. Currie again: “Reuters reports a British man spent five years building a high-performance vehicle from scratch — despite being blind. So what’s Leafs GM Brian Burke’s excuse?”
• Headline at Sportspickle.com: “Classy Josh Hamilton dedicates 4 HRs to the memory of Albert Pujols.”
• Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, on the unlikely friendship of golfer Bubba Watson and singer Justin Bieber: “I’m not sure where Watson and Bieber met, but we can pretty much rule out a barber shop.”
• Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “When an NBA player gets fouled, or comes close to being fouled, he takes it like a man. Unfortunately, that man is Rudolph Valentino, superstar of silent movies whose dramatic overacting was necessary to compensate for the absence of dialogue.”
• Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com, on ESPN excitement when Tiger Woods makes the cut, guaranteeing his presence on the weekend: “Wow! So finishing is now a goal? Woods has gone from Jack Nicklaus to Danica Patrick.”
• Bumper sticker, as spotted by blogger Michael Higgins: “Always give 100%, except when donating blood.”